Monterey Car Week is known for showcasing the crème de la crème of the automotive industry, from vintage gems to cutting-edge supercars. Surprisingly, my most memorable experience from the event involved driving two tiny “Super Coopers” brought to Monterey by Gildred Racing to unveil their latest Tesla-powered electric project.
While the company’s Super Cooper electric powertrain conversion stole the limelight, the previous iteration, the Super Cooper “S,” was equally impressive, boasting an astounding 502 hp (375 kW) from a mid-mounted supercharged V6. Each car represented a microcosm of the enthusiast industry, allowing me to explore the nuances of rear-wheel versus front-wheel drive—although I must admit, it’s challenging to determine which one I enjoyed more.
Gildred Racing, based in Buellton, California, specializes in restoring and racing classic Mini Coopers. Their exceptional craftsmanship and pursuit of excellence first drew attention when they transformed one of these diminutive British hatchbacks into a mid-engine rear-wheel-drive marvel six years ago. And it was with great anticipation that I took the wheel of the Super Cooper “S”.
Let’s put things into perspective: this remarkable vehicle actually outpaced a McLaren 720S in a drag race, as showcased in Season 2 of Netflix’s “Fastest Car.” The mind-boggling acceleration is no exaggeration, with a dyno-proven 502 hp reaching the wheels from a 3.5L Acura V6 engine and a supercharger. Despite the power, the Cooper weighs just 2,100 pounds (954 kg), resulting in an exceptional power-to-weight ratio.
With a six-speed manual transmission and 13-inch wheels wrapped in 225-millimeter tires, the Super Cooper “S” demands the utmost attention from the driver. As I navigated the slippery roads on a misty Monterey day, the car’s superb weight distribution and smooth power delivery allowed me to enjoy exhilarating rally-racing maneuvers just within the edge of my comfort zone.
While I half-expected the police to focus their attention on high-performance McLarens, Ferraris, and Bugattis, it was the Super Coopers tearing through the peninsula that caught their eye. However, our goal was not to engage in excessive speeding but rather to provide Gildred Racing with valuable insights into their new Tesla-swapped Mini project.
This electrified Mini, featuring a Riviera Blue exterior, represents a collaboration between Gildred Racing and Electric Classic Cars in the UK. The 1971 Leyland Mini 1000 was fitted with a Tesla conversion kit, resulting in a silent and smooth electric driving experience. With smaller wheels and a more understated appearance, the EV version is perfect for leisurely rides around small beach towns or a casual trip to the golf course.
Gildred Racing’s Super Coopers demonstrate that electric power can seamlessly intertwine with classic car aesthetics, delivering impressive performance while preserving the charm of these iconic vehicles.